Process

Playing with natural dye extracts

Several months ago I put a call out to the diverse community of local textile and fiber enthusiasts asking if there was interest in starting a local natural dye study group affiliated with the Textile Center of Minnesota. At least 15 people responded, and now we have a fledgling natural dye group in the Twin Cities! We met first in March, and will meet again this Wednesday in the Textile Center dye lab. This group is about exploration, experimentation and sharing - i.e. more play than structured learning. At the first meeting, participants shared their lovely naturally dyed samples. (I wish I had taken photos of them). This week we are going to play with Earthues Natural Dye extracts, both immersion and direct application methods. (Earthues has a new blog and hopefully will have an online shop soon.) In preparation for leading the meeting, I did some playing on my own. Here's a peek at my wool scrap, followed by some notes describing what I did with it.

dyesonwool.jpg

I mixed up several colors (cutch, logwood purple, pomegranate and madder), along with iron water and cream of tartar water, and gum tragacanth thickener. I pasted several of my stencils on two large scraps of wool and silk which had been soy sized and mordanted (painted with alum). I added thickener to the natural dye extracts and painted it on. I also painted on iron water and cream of tartar to see what would happen to the colors. My guide for these experiments is the Natural Dye Instruction Booklet by Michele Wipplinger of Earthues, which you can find here. The book covers several methods of applying these natural dyes to cloth.

I used the extracts full strength along with the thickener. I also used the iron water at full strength. Next time I'll dilute these considerably. When I painted on iron water and cream of tartar water, I could see the color changes instantly. There is a bit of magic to this! I'm excited to learn more about these dyes!

Report from Covelo

Back from my adventure in Covelo: the katazome workshop with John Marshall. The road to Covelo, CA follows the Eel River, officially Wild and Scenic. A wonderful place to swim too!

Eel-river.jpg

Classes take place in John's home/studio, a restored flour mill. The dates on the facade are 1888-1914-1999. The name of the gorgeous pink flowers escapes me.

The Mill

The Mill

A few insights:  Yes, I have been making my rice paste too thick, and the raw paste too dry. Revelation: golf balls and dough-nuts are unnecessary. I really like this! Here, the raw paste is ready to steam.

Rice past resist ready to steam.

Rice past resist ready to steam.

I have been working with freeze-dried indigo this summer, and it was great to observe the preparation of the vat and then the re-heating of the vat the next day. Here are pictures from our indigo experience.

Introducing the freeze-dried "instant" indigo to the vat:

Adding indigo to the vat of body temp water

Adding indigo to the vat of body temp water

Here are two ways of skimming the oxidized bubbles, "aibana" or indigo blossoms, from the top of the vat, which is necessary unless you want the dark spots of bloom on your work.

skimming method 1

skimming method 1

skimming method 2

skimming method 2

Using the 2nd method is great -- you can then dry the bubbles and use them as indigo pigments along with the soymilk.

attaching cloth to frame

attaching cloth to frame

Ready to dip the cloth.  (That's my Covelo house-mate Eva Pietzcker, an artist from Berlin who makes gorgeous woodblock prints in the Japanese tradition.) John has a rope and pulley system, used primarily for larger pieces of work which need the larger ceramic vat (which you can see behind John). These containers are from China and were originally designed to hold soy sauce.

ready to dip

ready to dip

In goes the cloth ... count to three ... pull it out and over the outside edge of the vat to drip. You want to avoid introducing oxygen. John's rule of thumb: the rice paste resist can withstand three brief dips, then must hang to dry before further dunking. If you want it darker repeat that until you achieve the depth of color desired. Observe the paste -- you want to stop before it starts to break down.

into the blue

into the blue

See the lovely dark green which will turn blue as it oxidizes ...

dark green turns to blue with oxidation

dark green turns to blue with oxidation

Afternoon break most days featured home-made shaved ice! John has a lovely Japanese cast-iron hand-crank machine with gears - the ice sits vice-grip-like in the machine on top of a flat blade. A hand crank turns the blade and the shaved ice falls into the bowl below. We tried it with powdered green Japanese tea and sugar syrup on top; and with home-made blackberry sauce! Yum! I was too absorbed in the experience to take a picture, but found this short video on YouTube that features a similar type of machine.

The hot dry air in Covelo is perfect for working outside, stretching fabric between uprights of the Wisteria arbor.

arbor and yard

arbor and yard

placing shinshi

placing shinshi

Oh, and I must not forget Nutmeg, the cat.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg

Many fine experiences to reflect upon over the clouds of Colorado and beyond!

clouds above Colorado

clouds above Colorado